Some dogs have a natural grip and ooze self confidence from an early age. Some dogs are born a little hungry, with a shorter fuse.
My dog Z has the patients of a saint. I love him for this, it has made him very easy to bring along quickly. The boy has a very level head and can keep his wits about him more than some 'seasoned' dogs I know. Now when the sheep may stomp and try to break away and he calmly puts them back together and moves them on the sheep's schedule. I have never seen him back off a sheep that has turned on him, he doesn't get angry, he just waits and holds his ground. On the rare occasion he does grip it is a nice one on the nose. I've also seen him get really tall so he's eye to eye with the sheep he's trying to turn back. Since we have been struggling a bit with pick sheep up off a feed pan I thought it might be a good time to install a grip. I really want him to understand he may do whatever it takes to move those sheep.
Today I decided to install the first part of the grip program on our operating system. Since we have some pretty important upcoming trials, the install will be slow and the download time my be excessive.
I had my handy clicker and a pocket full of yummy treats.
The three dogs have a much loved, thread bare and flat soccer ball that they all play with. It is thee coveted item in the yard and Z being the new guy doesn't get much face time with it. This was our victim or mock sheep.
First I worked some quick behaviors the he knows clicking an treating.
Then I picked up the soccer ball and held it out. He was pretty sure I was going to throw it so just sort of waited. Quickly that turned to boring time for the dog, so he tried to take it. Click the minute his mouth hit the ball. Soon a full hard grip and a quick tug as a reward. I began to label the grip with the cue.
Next I dropped the ball and repeated the process above but with the ball on the ground. He was quickly hitting the ball like a ton of bricks on cue. Hmmmmm Mr. Smarty pants.
Next I moved away from the ball and cued him, perfect on the first try. He owned that ball. I began to increase the criteria.
We ended with Z and I 5 feet apart and the ball about half way between us and he was moving forward confidently and gripping the ball with force and athority and then bringing it to me. I think I may work on this a few more times in the coming weeks but will not introduce it on sheep until later this spring or the beginning of the summer when we have a break from trialling.
Ruminating on Letting Go
1 week ago